Tag Archive | music

Broken and spilled out

When I was in my 40s, my nest was suddenly empty. Having only one child means one day the nest is full and the next day it’s empty. Travis went away to college, leaving Sweet William and me to bump around the house alone.

The Lord in His graciousness, knowing how my heart was, filled me up with a group of young people where we attended church. They became a drama team. We began to work on skits and pantomimes, performing at church services, our own and others. We even traveled to Michigan where we put on a workshop for the youth there and performed several times during the weekend.

It was great fun and a lot of trial and error. The kids could drive me absolutely up the wall sometimes. But most of the time, I was so proud of their efforts and their sincerity as they portrayed Bible scenes or humorous skits, all with the purpose of glorifying the Lord.   I so prayed the truth they acted out would take root in their hearts and draw them closer to Jesus.

One of the songs they performed was called Broken and Spilled Out by Gloria Gather. It was made popular by singer Steve Green. The song tells the story of the woman who brought her precious ointment and poured it out on Jesus feet.  The fragrance of the perfume touched the senses of all who were witness to her loving deed that day.  Jesus commended her for her act of love.

I’ve been humming that song a lot lately. It think it must be because I’ve felt broken and spilled out in the last several weeks.

I know I’ve been broken because the tears keep spilling out.

Sweet William and I have been through some trauma together. Recently, it has taken more out of me than I had in reserve.

I’ve given this some thought, and have come to the conclusion that being emptied out can be exceedingly unpleasant.  There is still so much of my self-will left in me.   My flesh and my spirit do battle quite often.

As Paul said in Romans 7, “I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (The Message)

There are times I think to myself, “O wretched woman that I am!  Who will deliver me from myself?”

The answer, of course, is Jesus who took all my punishment for my past, present and future sins.  Thanks be to God for the victory He won on the cross!

I am so thankful for the promise that though I am faithless, He remains Faithful! 

I am often struck by the profound thought that God never gives up on me, no matter how long it takes. He is the Potter who is committed to conforming me into the image of Jesus, molding, squeezing, remaking, so that I will reflect Him more and more in my motives, thoughts and actions.  I often think He surely must be getting tired of me by now. 

How many times have I prayed, “Lord, I want to do your will.”  Or “”Make me more like Jesus.”  Or “If you can use anything, Lord, You can use me.”  I’m finding out He takes those kind of prayers seriously and begins to make it happen.  It can be a painful process.

Giving up my own agenda, my own wants and desires, my own will can be likened to the woman who gave her most precious possession.  You see, my self-will is pretty important to me.  It can become my most treasured possession.

Sometimes life takes a turn toward hard and uncertain days or weeks, even years.  It becomes God’s means of molding me, even breaking me if necessary.  I am His project and He will not give up.

The wonder of this brokenness is that it results in more room for the Spirit to fill me up with Himself.   Empty of myself, I can be full of Jesus.   Perhaps it is the way to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ (I Corinthians 2:14).

Ah, now that is a beautiful thought.  It makes being emptied out a transforming and beautiful process.  It means I’m growing, I’m becoming, I’m on my way to reflecting the image of my Savior more and more. 

There isn’t anything else that is more important than that.

Have you been broken and spilled out?  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Music, music, music

Last week was what I call “recitals week.”  Thus, the lack of any blogging.  My time and attention were spent focusing on the details of preparing for 40 plus Little Flock students to show off their musical accomplishments at three separate recital events.  Eleven instructors teach seven different instruments and voice at Little Flock Academy of Arts, and they work hard to prepare their students for moments like this.

As it so happened this year, my home students had their spring recital on Saturday afternoon, after all of Little Flock’s recitals were completed.  “Busy” was the word for the week. 

My heart pumped fast while the adrenalin flowed unrelenting.  There were lists to check and duties to accomplish, things that can only be completed the very week before.  My days went by fast and furious.  A good night’s rest was required when I could get it.  And I tried to give myself that necessity.

I am one of the fortunate few who gets to show off my work on a regular basis.  Recitals are such times. 

However, my part in recitals is not to be compared to the hard work done by the other instructors and the at-home-work the students do daily that can only be called what it is – practice.  The 30 minutes shared by instructor and student is only a portion of the picture.  What is done after the music lesson, at home,  is what shows on stage during the performance.  

Getting to share the excitement of each students’ accomplishments is the reward of recitals.

I noticed so many times this weekend, how a student looked to his/her instructor when the performance had ended.  It was a look of “Did I do it well?  Are you proud of me?”  I realized how much influence an instructor holds on a young life.  An instructor significantly impacts each student they teach, not only musically but in areas of work ethic, integrity, and self-esteem.  I am proud to work with the group of instructors at the Academy of Arts.  They are a cut above the average.  They take their role seriously to impart their own love of music as well as to encourage students to be the best they can be. 

Sometimes a child just needs someone to believe in him.  An instructor can be that person who makes a difference in a life.

Recitals week is hard work, intense concentration, and wearying on my body.  At the same time it is one of my favorite times of the year.  Seeing and hearing a student accomplish a new technique, move to another level, finally get that rhythm correctly is a kind of joy that is hard to describe.

I count myself blessed to be part of the beauty of sharing music with my own students.  Along with that is the joy of being part of the Academy of Arts and working with such dedicated instructors who share my passion for music and for passing it along to the next generation. 

As one of my sweet young students said last year, “Music is for life.”  And I could not agree more.

“Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre, sing praises to Him with the harp of ten strings.  Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a loud and joyful sound.”  Psalm 33:2-3

You are welcome to share your musical expressions here.  I love reading your comments.

Some birds sing in the dark

I’m an early riser though I have not always been. As a teenager, I could easily sleep until noon on any given day during the summer. When I was married with children (or with an only child), I relished sleeping in on Saturdays when no one had to go to work or to school.

These days, I usually rise before dawn. Actually I like it, having the first hour of the day in quietness. Please, don’t ask me questions or require me to do chores. Make no demands of me. It is my “quiet time” to spend with Bible open and coffee cup full.

I sit where I can open a window, weather permitting; and this time of year, the weather permits it daily. I listen to the silence of the predawn. And I listen for the bird that sings in the dark. He sings before the breaking of day. He sings with the hope of morning even before a glint of first light.

I have wondered at that bird. Why does he sing alone when it is still so black outside? I realize his Creator made him for such a task. He is the one who wakes first and begins his warble. Later, others will join him. By the time the first glow of pink-orange sun rays show in the east, a cacophony of bird songs echo through the window.

Speaking of singing while it is still dark . . .

I met Mary Lou at Sunday School class when Sweet William and I first “found our place” at Little Flock Baptist Church.

Shortly after we began attending the class, Mary Lou discovered she had cancer. The dreaded C-word wrecked havoc on her body, causing her to suffer much and to lose her hair. There were weeks she didn’t have the strength to come to church. But when she came, she smiled her faith. I was drawn to her.

I know there were days when she didn’t feel like smiling or couldn’t smile. But each time I saw her, she smiled with a hope that her God was faithful even during chemo treatments.

As hair loss set in Mary Lou came to Sunday School with pretty scarves tied on her head or wearing a saucy hat that matched her outfit. And she wore that signature smile.

Mary Lou and I exchanged emails on occasion during those trying days. Hers were faith-filled and God-honoring. While I tried to encourage her, inevitably she ended up encouraging me. She was singing in the dark.

Mary Lou’s hair has grown out now, and she is a cancer survivor. Her smile still warms my heart. She is a warrior, and I have witnessed her courageous song.

More recently another friend, Sharon, heard her cancer diagnoses and expects surgery in the coming weeks. When she told me about the test results, a smile graced her lips and peace countenanced her face. Every day via email she sends me and many others a “good thought for the day.”  She is singing in the dark.

Yet another young friend is enduring the heartache of brokenness that won’t be mended.  I feel helpless as I see her world crumbling beneath her.  Still she smiles, she laughs, and she sings to the glory of her Savior’s praise though her darkness is long and unrelenting.

I am reminded of many Biblical characters who sung in the dark: Job when everything was taken from him; Abraham as he walked toward the mountain of sacrifice; Paul and Silas after a severe beating and imprisonment.

All these knew the song of the dark night.

I ponder those night singers. One sings before the break of day, then others  join in. Does the first song encourage another song, and another and another, until the air is filled with praise and worship for the God who made both the day and the night?

I want to be a night singer, one who can make melody through tears, one who can see God when it is too black to see anything else. 

The night singers encourage me to sing.  To sing when the night lasts too long.  To sing though the dawn is not in sight.  To sing because weeping may last for the night, but joy come in the morning.

Sing on, sweet singers.  Sing on! 

But for grace!

 It’s Sunday, a day I love to enjoy. Briefly let me sum up what penetrated my heart today. It is all about grace, saving grace, amazing grace, nothing but grace!

The songs, the sermon, the skit at church this morning communicated this theme, that we are saved by grace and grace alone. Not by good works of our own puny efforts, but by the grace provided by Jesus’ death on the cross. That wonderful lesson put joy in my heart today and will until the day I leave this earth clothed in Christ’s grace.

Today I give you a song, the one sung with conviction and power by members of Little Flock’s worship team. It sums up my testimony.

If Not For Your Grace”

  by Israel Houghton and Aaron Lindsey

Where would I be if not for your grace? Carrying me in every season.

Where would I be if not for Your grace? You came to my rescue

And I want to thank You for Your grace.

Grace that restores, grace that redeems, grace that releases me to worship.

Grace that repairs visions and dreams, grace that releases miracles.

Your grace – Your grace –

Have you experienced this wonderful grace? Leave a comment and let’s share our joy.

The privilege of worship

    I am continuing my thoughts on worship today, having written about Epiphany and the gift of worship in a previous blog post. 

    On a typical Sunday morning, Sweet William and I will be found at Little Flock Ministry Center on Sundays at 8:45 am.  Bill likes to arrive early, take his seat and chat with our friend Bob who always sits behind us.  Even in a large church, we find our small group, our community of believes and familiar faces.

A little before 9 am, the band begins to play the prelude.  The worship team walk out on the stage and “worship” begins.  At least it begins in form.  How often have I stood up for the songs only to be distracted by thoughts of last week, plans for next week, questions about what is for lunch today, or observations of people coming in the sanctuary and finding their places.

I may be standing up on the outside, singing songs with my voice, but where is my heart?  Is that really worship?

One such Sunday, I had an “epiphany,” an insight into the meaning of worship, a moment of  revelation.  I began to wonder at this amazing privilege called worship.  How marvelous it is to enter into the very presence of God with my praise and adoration!

My understanding of the Jewish rules of temple worship tells me the place for the Gentile was far off from the center of it all, not in the closer arena of the chosen people of God, and definitely not near the sanctuary where the priests were serving.  The opportunity to enter the Holy of holies was zero to none.   Only the high priest entered that special place on the one day of the year set aside for the Day of Atonement.    

I let that thought sink in and then consider where I am standing today.  I am being led in a worship experience by singers and band members, proclaiming loudly and in harmony that we are in the presence of Jehovah.  And I am in awe.  The Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and earth, the One who holds the universe and all of time in His hand, has extended His heart to me and invites me to come in.  The invitation is written in Hebrews 4:16.  It reads:

” . . . let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.” (HCSB)

Boldness is interpreted as being fearless and confident.

Take in those words. You and I can come to our Father’s throne room without fear and with complete confidence of being accepted because we are His children, purchased with the precious blood of Jesus.  We are members of the family, and family doesn’t need another invitation.  They are always welcome around the Father’s table.

The Jewish law instructed the people to come into Jehovah’s presence with an offering or a gift.  I read in places like Exodus 23:15 and 34:20 that God told them not to come empty-handed.

As a new covenant believer, I don’t bring the blood of bulls or goats, I don’t bring a meal or a drink offering.  What I do bring is my sacrifice of praise.  That is my gift to Him, my worship.  Just like the wise men, it should be what I offer first.

Standing there in the pew at church I realize I am afforded the greatest benefit, the most enviable of all invitations, “Come unto Me.”

I answer that request and I come, bringing my heartfelt praise, my adoration, my thanksgiving and worship. May I never take this precious privilege for granted.

Tell me about your worship experience.  Please leave a comment.

Immanuel – The strong God with us!

I love listening to Christmas songs whether it be on the car radio, through the computer at work, or on the stereo system at home. I have an eclectic collection of Christmas CDs. I begin playing them soon after Thanksgiving – but not before. You know how I am.

Some of my favorite Christmas songs are the ones that declare the name of Christ as Immanuel (sometimes spelled Emmanuel). You can probably hum and few bars of your favorite song right now.

Do you recall this one? O come, o come Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel.

One carol made popular by singer Amy Grant says,

Immanuel, Immanuel, Wonderful Counselor

Lord of life, Lord of all.

He is the Prince of peace, Mighty God, Holy One.

Immanuel Immanuel!

Matthew 1:23 tells us, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).  (NIV)

Immanuel, God with us. I can rest in that proclamation, lie down and sleep peacefully, walk with courage during the day knowing my God is with me.

I love discovering new things in God’s Word, nuances to meanings of familiar passages. Recently I found out the word Immanuel literally means “the strong God with us”. Now that gives it an interesting twist.

The strong God came to be with us through Jesus.  At the same time, He showed His humility, strength under control, by taking on the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and found in the appearance as a man, so says Philippians 2.

  •  The strong God, able and willing to provide salvation – yet coming in the form of a helpless infant child.
  • The strong God, not afraid to call a hypocrite a hypocrite – yet letting the little children come to Him.
  • The strong God, fearlessly clearing the temple of buyers and sellers – yet allowing Himself to be touched by bleeding women and prostitutes.
  • The strong God, speaking the Word of God with authority – yet speaking not a word in His own defense at the mockery of a trial.
  • The strong God, calming the stormy sea – yet having to be awakened from sleep because His humanity was weary.

The strong God, Immanuel, is with me, with you even now through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. I am encouraged and strengthened by His grace to carry on.

Fellow traveler, the strong God is with you today.  And whatever you tomorrows may bring, the strong God will be with you there also.

Let us walk in the faith and confidence that this one Word, Immanuel, promises.

” . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20 – NIV).

I’ll play for You

The Celebration Choir at Little Flock Baptist Church is combining their voices with the worship team, worship band, an orchestra, and a cast of “thousands” (maybe it was only 20 or 30 actors and directors – just seemed like thousands).  Their efforts will produced “Gloria” on Sunday, December 12 at 6 pm at Little Flock on Preston Highway in Shepherdsville, Kentucky.  I got a sneak preview on Thursday during dress rehearsal.  I first went to the balcony and enjoyed the birds-eye view with the media team.  During the second full run-through, I sat in the pew like a congregant, tapping my feet to the rhythms, moving to the groove of Swinging to the Sounds,  and feeling worshipful during songs like No Eye Has Seen and Offering.

But my favorite song of the musical is the choral version of The Little Drummer Boy. The original song was written in 1958 by pianist Katherine Davis.  It tells a story of a small boy who has nothing to give to the baby Jesus except his one talent, playing the drum. 

The choir sings a very special arrangement of The Little Drummer Boy.  Tim Gipson, Sunday morning worship leader and percussionist, joins the choir for the solo part.  He shares the spotlight with Adam Johnson who portrays the drummer boy.  The pièce de resistance is when members of the drum line from Louisville Male High School (Tim’s day job includes teaching these amazing musicians) marches down the sanctuary aisles and up the stairs of the stage, playing with precision force the Pa rum pum pum pums.  It gives me goose bumps! 

Now I’ve heard some controversy over using this particular song in a worship musical because it isn’t exactly Biblical.  I’d like to present a case to the contrary. 

Somewhere about in the middle of the song, young Adam sings so sweetly, “I’ll play for you.”  The choir and Tim later echoe the same promise.  The phrase holds much meaning for me, perhaps in part because I am a musician.  Playing for the service of the Lord has been my life since I was thirteen years old.  It is almost as natural as breathing.  I married a musician, I birthed a musician, and now I’m teaching my three grandchildren to be musicians.

But one does not have to be a musician or a singer or in the marching band to find meaning in the phrase, “I’ll play for you.”

There are dear people all around who are “playing their drums” for Jesus.  They are sending prayer requests through email.  They are bringing food to those who’ve had surgery or a death in the family.  They are making an encouraging call or sending a card.  They are stuffing church bulletins.  They are buying presents for children who won’t have Christmas otherwise.  They are giving to the Salvation army.  They are filling shoe boxes with everyday essentials for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.  They are serving at the Dare to Care building.  They are going on mission trips.  They are preaching, teaching, giving, loving, care giving, and multiple other tasks that show the love of God to a lost and dying world.

Come they told me, Pa rum pum pum pum, a new born King to see, Pa rum pum pum pum

Our finest gifts we bring, Pa rum pum pum pum, to lay before the king,  Pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum

So to honor Him, Pa rum pum pum pum, when we come.

Little baby . . . I am a poor boy, too . . .  I have no gift to bring . . . that’s fit to give our King . . .  Shall I play for you . . . on my drum?

Mary nodded . . . The ox and lamb kept time . . . I played my drum  for Him . . . I played my best for Him . . .  

Then He smiled at me, Pa rum pum pum pum, me and my drum.”

No matter what “drum” you are playing for the Savior this Christmas season, play it loud.  Play it clear.  Play it so all the world will hear.  Christ the Lord is born!  He came to seek and to save those who are lost.  He calls us to do what He did, give of ourselves, give the gifts we have been given, give them in His name.

Then He smiles at us.

(The Little Drummer Boy as perfomed at Little Flock last year, 2009)

 

What drum are you playing this year for Jesus?  Leave a comment.  I love hearing from you.